It’s OK to Take Pictures at the Airport

It is nice to know that the public is generally free to photograph aircraft and facilities at Honolulu International Airport from public access areas on or surrounding the property. This decision was reached after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the State of Hawaii reached an agreement the First Amendment matter after a photographer was cited by a state sheriff after photographing aircraft from the sidewalk along Lagoon Drive.

The ACLU released a press release which reads in part:

The First Amendment right of individuals to take photographs in public was re-affirmed in an agreement reached between the ACLU of Hawaii Foundation (ACLU) and the State of Hawaii. The dispute arose when an amateur photographer was cited by a state Sheriff for taking pictures of airplanes from a public sidewalk along Lagoon Drive (near the Honolulu International Airport) without a permit. According to the ACLU, no permit is needed for this public area frequented by joggers, tourists, aircraft enthusiasts, and other amateur photographers.

The agreement reinforces the public’s right to document public and law enforcement encounters.

The Lagoon Drive area is a popular location for photographers to take pictures of aircraft. There are obstacles in the area like lack of parking and a high fence surrounding the end of the drive. Other locations around Honolulu International Airport have their own share of issues including glass in terminal areas (glare) and no parking along Elliot Street.

The state’s agreement to not infringe on First Amendment rights should apply to all airports in Hawaii.

As a photographer, I like to take pictures of aircraft. I limit my Honolulu aircraft shooting to public events near the airport, at the terminal while traveling, or from Kaka’ako and other nearby parks along the flight corridor in order to avoid harassment by airport security and state sheriffs.




Melvin Ah Ching is a photographer, consultant, blogger, desktop publisher, and computer enthusiast living and working in Hawaii. The Hawaii Files have been online since 2006.